Military members who got vaccinated for COVID-19 Department of Defense are not eligible for the five $1 million state drawings meant to incentivize getting immunized.
The state said it has reached an agreement that would make thousands of Pikes Peak region veterans inoculated by the Department of Veterans Affairs eligible for the cash giveaway after they were also excluded, but was still working on details with the Pentagon.
Gov. Jared Polis announced the drawings on Tuesday and said that Colorado adults vaccinated before June 30 would be eligible.
However, military members and veterans were initially not included in the state's immunization database, the Colorado Immunization Information System, that tracks people immunized at pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, drive-up vaccination events and other options and so they were not part of the pool for the lottery.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in an emailed statement it is working with both federal agencies to fix the problem.
"We have worked closely with the Veteran’s Administration to find a solution with their eligibility in the upcoming $1 million drawings, and we are pleased to announce that individuals vaccinated through the VA will be eligible," the agency said. "Discussions with the Department of Defense are ongoing, and we are confident we will have more positive news to report soon. We will provide more details when they become available."
The agency said it doesn't anticipate needing to delay the drawing.
El Paso County Public Health data shows more than 45,000 people were immunized through the military or VA.
Army veteran Rich Lewis said he was pleased the state was working on a solution to fix the inequality.
"If it’s a benefit or an opportunity that is offered to the civilian community, of course, the veteran or military community should not be excluded," he said.
He also noted it's not unusual for government policy not to consider the nuances of providing equitable care and services to military members and veterans. As a Medicare health insurance broker he has seen a similar discrepancy that provided a benefit to civilians and not to veterans that has been rectified.
The policy oversight could come from siloed systems and some of it from a lack of experience with the military among officials, he said.
"Less than 1% of the population ever served. ... The awareness on the government side of things isn’t very high," he said.
He said he hopes the state will not make the same mistake again.